Education

A key Senate committee voted Tuesday to approve the nomination of Betsy DeVos, a school choice activist and billionaire Republican donor, to be secretary of education, despite the fierce objections of Senate Democrats, teachers unions and others. There's much speculation as to exactly how she might carry out President Trump's stated priority of increasing school choice.

Recent high school graduates in Tennessee are already allowed to attend community college at no cost. Now Gov. Bill Haslam is looking to expand the year-old program to provide free community college educations to adults, as well.

Haslam, a Republican who has been in office since 2011, made his pitch at Monday night's State of the State address. Afterward, he tweeted, "Let's be the Tennessee we can be."

Saira Rafiee boarded a plane in Tehran this weekend on her way to New York. She had been visiting family in Iran and needed to get back to the U.S. in time for classes at City University of New York's Graduate Center, where she is a Ph.D. student in political science. But, as a result of President Trump's executive order restricting the travel of citizens from seven majority-Muslim countries, including Iran, Rafiee says she was detained in Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates and, after nearly 18 hours, sent back to Tehran.

The State Board of Education approved a new charter school in Seminole, Oklahoma on Thursday.

This makes the school one of the first rural charter schools in the state. It also makes this school one of the first charters to be approved, and sponsored by, the State Board of Education.

Charter schools are typically run and approved by local school boards, but the Seminole Public School Board of Education had denied this charter application twice, saying it was incomplete.

Niya Kenny pulled out her cell phone and began recording.

It happened in 2015, after a classmate had refused to hand over her own cell phone during class and was being pulled from her chair by a police officer based at their school, Spring Valley High School in Columbia, S.C. When Kenny loudly protested and, like her classmate, refused to hand over her phone, she too was arrested.

The charge: disturbing a school.

Emily Wendler / KOSU

Oklahoma’s state government is facing a budget deficit of around $900 million. One of the casualties of the state's fiscal woes: public schools. They're left facing tough choices like implementing a shorter school week, canceling classes, and consolidating districts. All this as the system is facing a shrinking teacher population and rising class sizes.

Emily Wendler / KOSU

Oklahoma City Public Schools administrators invited legislators and community leaders to "teach for a day." The district hoped lawmakers would have a better understanding of a teacher's responsibilities after spending a day in their shoes.

Oklahoma Senator David Holt spent part of his day reading with first graders at Quail Creek Elementary School. Other lawmakers and community leaders went to other schools in the district.

Holt says he knows quite a bit about the school because his kids go there, but on Tuesday, he learned a lot more.

After Betsy DeVos' Senate confirmation hearing yesterday — all three hours and change — we know a little more about Donald Trump's pick to be the next education secretary.

Appearing before the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor & Pensions, DeVos faced questions on a range of issues, from private school vouchers and charter school oversight to guns in schools.

Some Oklahoma City Public School Board members expressed concern about the district’s suspension rates at Tuesday night’s board meeting.

That's because African American students are still being suspended at a much higher rate than others. Currently African American students are 24 percent of the district’s population, but get 43 percent of the suspensions.

The federal Office of Civil Rights investigated the district for disproportionately suspending black students in 2014- and OKCPS vowed to address the issue.

The education philosophy of Betsy DeVos boils down to one word: choice. The billionaire has used her money to support the expansion of public charter schools and private school vouchers.

For more than three hours on Tuesday, President-elect Donald Trump's pick to run the Education Department handled tough questions on school choice, charters and the future of the nation's schools from the Senate committee that handles education.

In her opening remarks, DeVos made clear she doesn't think traditional public schools are a good fit for every child.

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